PhD student showcases research at Light Night Leeds success

PhD student Diego Quiñones Valles, School of Physics and Astronomy, received praise for his collaborative kinetic art installation, which was displayed at Light Night Leeds earlier this year.

As a Physics and Astronomy PhD candidate in Quantum Information, Diego Valles formed the installation with his collaborative team. It was supported by The Superposition collective – a collaboration network for artists, makers and scientists. The installation was a product of Diego’s collaborative research, entitled as follows:

Dominic Hopkinson, Artist in Residence at the School of Mathematics, and member of The Superposition, introduced Diego to the network, which was also promoted by the Public Engagement at the University. As a culmination of a six-month project, Diego and his team showcased the installation at Light Night Leeds. Diego explains:

"The success of the project possible thanks to the zest and hard work of all the members of the team. I would like to encourage all the students of a STEM degree in participate in this kind of outreach activities, as it provides the opportunity to promote your research and raise the interest of the public in sciences and technology. In my case, this activity was also a priceless occasion to meet and collaborate with outstanding people."

I would like to encourage all the students of a STEM degree in participate in this kind of outreach activities... it was a priceless occasion to meet and collaborate with outstanding people.

Diego Quiñones Valles

While the installation was a success, it is only the beginning of the endeavour. The piece was created in a way that makes it easy to install and collapse, meaning it is highly versatile. Once Diego and his team have refined and polished the project, they plan to present it at several venues, not only in Leeds but also nearby regions.

The collaborative installation

In the installation, small floating balls oscillate at a regular phase with a small detuning between them, describing a wave-like pattern. It is meant to depict the dual particle-wave nature of the electron in an atom.

The balls are illuminated using strobe light, which generates an afterimage effect and the illusion of them being in different positions at the same time; this is an illustration of a state superposition as described by quantum mechanics.

The illuminating light shifts from red to green and back to red to represent a change in the energy levels of the atom by the interaction of a gravitational wave - one of the findings from Diego's research.

About Diego and his collaborative team

Diego pursued his interest in public engagement having participated in various outreach activities – he has also written two articles for The Conversation: Giant atoms could help unveil ‘dark matter’ and other cosmic secrets, and How giant atoms may help catch gravitational waves from the Big Bang.

With support from Professor Ben Whitaker (School of Chemistry) and Scientific-Artist Cat Scott, Diego was able to realise his installation vision. Diego was also able to network with many makers and scientists while participating in ASMbly lab, an event organised by The Superposition. Diego attended alongside his team, comprised of:

  • Mark Carney, School of Mathematics

  • Azlee Babar, Sound Desingner

  • Anzir Boodoo, Science Comunicator

  • Tom Ward, Designer Maker

About Light Night Leeds

​Light Night Leeds is an annual free multi-arts and light festival which takes over Leeds City Centre on two nights in early October. Witness the city centre come alive with an exciting programme of spectacular projections, interactive installations, exhibitions, dance, music and street performances.

Further information

Diego and his team gratefully acknowledge Leeds City Council for funding the project.

For more information about Diego and his research, get in touch by email.

For photos and videos illustrating the project, visit Cat Scott’s website or follow her on Instagram.